Relishing in the Democrats’ jumbled primary after a fractious debate, US President Donald Trump has offered stinging criticism of his rivals as he sought to take advantage of the moment.
Making a rare four-day swing through the West, Trump was exuding re-election confidence on Thursday at a campaign rally in Colorado, after taking in the prior night’s prize fight of a debate in Las Vegas.
He revelled in the intra-party squabbling and the weak debut debate performance turned in by former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, according to aides and allies.
“I don’t know if anyone watched last night’s debate,” Trump told an arena of raucous supporters.
“It got very big ratings, and you know what, Mini Mike didn’t do well last night. I was going to send him a note, saying it’s not easy doing what I do is it?”
He offered other biting assessments of the Democratic contenders, contrasting them to his own performance in debates four years ago.
“I became president because of the debates because unlike Mini Mike I could answer questions,” Trump said.
Feeling re-election odds rising after his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial and his campaign’s record fundraising, Trump seized on the deep divisions and personal tiffs on display in the Democratic field. But his preoccupation with the scrambled nomination race for the Democrats seeking to replace him has been clear throughout the trip.
Repurposing one of Bloomberg’s own quotes about the Democratic infighting, Trump tweeted: “The real winner last night was Donald Trump.” He tacked on his own coda: “I agree!”
The night before, after a campaign rally in Phoenix, Trump summoned reporters to his office aboard Air Force One to join him in watching a replay of the debate on the return flight to Las Vegas. He was scheduled to hold a rally in the city – his third in as many days – Friday on the eve of the caucuses, as he did before contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Bloomberg has been the most disconcerting force in the 2020 race for Trump since the ultra-billionaire entered the fray in November and spent more than $US400 million, which rocketed him in the polls in just three months.
Bloomberg’s willingness to spend near-unlimited sums to defeat Trump, and the mocking tone of many of his ads, have deeply rankled the president.